For the first time in over a decade the Annie Oakley event of 2015 almost didn’t happen. Gery Deer who did a radio show with me about the annual event back in June had a brother who had been through brain surgery just a few days prior, and a sick father who was difficult to leave alone for an extended period. I had a few broken bones left from a recent motorcycle crash. The trip up to Darke County, Ohio to celebrate the birthday of Annie Oakley—America’s first real female celebrity, was plagued with voluminous predators known as police trying to write traffic tickets to pay for their wages, trains that kept stopping our journey from Southern Ohio and cancellations at the last-minute by several of the big names that usually come out. It was a rough year getting started and it took everything we had to get there and do the event. But as usual, I was happy to have gone. I made a point to not film everything as I usually do so I could just relax and enjoy the festivities, but I did manage to take some interesting 250 FPS footage of some of the variety to show why I typically use the event to restore my ambition for the American philosophy of freedom. The Western Arts of American specificity are unique to the world, and below are four examples of the day’s events to illustrate how wonderful, and dangerous they can be in slow motion.
Even with the cancellations a good number of people still came up, most notably Lash Luke from Alabama—he’s the one doing the bullwhip volleys around the little girl. David Crain was back, as well as several other long timers, so the competitions we usually do were fun and a fan favorite. I did my usual thing, and we all had a lot of fun. One thing that I thought was interesting is that it was the first time in all these years of doing these events that I won competitions with both of my treasured Terry Jacka bullwhips, one that is 10’ long and the other that is 6’. I have won with the shorter bullwhip lots of times, but never the two together. Even more ironic was that I won a contest for the first time with a snap whip holster that my wife had bought me way back in 2003.
The reason for the long whip win with the old holster was that Gery just for fun introduced last year a new contest called the Indiana Jones fast draw which simulated the opening of the famous movie, Raiders of the Lost Art. Being whip guys, we of course all love that classic movie so were keen to pay tribute to it with a contest that fans seemed to love. The way Gery designed it was really hard, you must have a coiled bullwhip of over 8’ in a holster with your back to the target, just like Indiana Jones did at the opening of Raiders. The event is run against another bullwhip artist just like in the regular fast draw competition so you have to race against another competitor. It’s tough to un-snap the holster, uncoil the bullwhip, find your target after turning around to spot it, then hitting it with a precise cut. Last year when we tried this for the first time, we all stumbled through it. But this year, we were all quite a bit better. I had to use my 10’ whip because it was the best one I had at that length. I have two 8’ whips, but they are not as accurate as my Jacka so I took the 10’ whip considering the extra time it would add to gain the accuracy. Indiana Jones was using a 10’ whip anyway, so it worked out for me. It was fun and gave us all a series of laughs we all needed after several hard weeks.
I spent some extra time this year watching the Single Action Shooting guys conduct their competition. I’m planning to add that new skill to my present activities in the upcoming years as part of my promotional efforts to preserve the Second Amendment. There is so much talent present at the Annie Oakley event that I consider it a real treasure to be among them. Not just in the portion that Gery Deer puts on, which takes considerable effort, but in the Ohio Fast Draw Association and the Cowboy Mounted Shooters, which was the first clip on the above video. I purposely went to relax a bit more this time than in years past, but couldn’t resist capturing some unique images with some high-speed tricks. Once I watched the mounted shooters a bit doing their thing against a corn field ready for harvest I fell in love with the images and the photographer in me demanded to gather up some footage. The move to York Woods as I said last year allowed for an expansion of their talent pool all gathered in one place. At the fairgrounds in previous years there were a lot more restrictions which prevented the creative shooting events that were so open to the public now. The mounted shooters were just a very short walk from the area where Gery was set up to conduct his western showcase. The single action shooting guys were just a bit of a walk between both events, so visitors had a lot to look at for free. It was quite an event to say the least.
David Crain the whip maker from Middletown, Ohio offered up most of the prize money for the whip competitions, as he has now for several years. He gives a gift certificate of $50 to his shop for each winner which is a significant improvement over the $5 to $7 dollar trophies we used to give out. Having a little gravitas to the competitions brings out the best in people because there is something worth fighting for. So after the competitions David came to find me to find out how to settle up with some of the certificates I had pending and added to after the day’s events. It was his idea, and we couldn’t get it done before this year’s event, but we certainly will before next year, to get my firewhips back into working shape. I had destroyed through heavy use my firewhips from year’s past, so I have been in need of replacements, but wanted something more robust. David and I talked for a bit last year about just such a project. The declaration by him was that we’d get it done before next year’s show. He has a number of very nice whips but for the winnings that he issued, there really isn’t a better way to spend the money than on firewhips—especially since the new location at York Woods is a lot more conducive to fire, explosions and live gun fire. Next year’s show should be a new step up from all our vast experience.
We ate at the Fairlawn again, and shared stories in the back of the room like we usually do after a hot day of sweaty efforts spent. My wife and I had a delightful Bud Light beer at the bar as we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. After all the heat of the day it tasted wonderfully. Just a few hours before as I watched Gery’s bullwhip show as a spectator I had a couple of corn dogs as I sat in the back of the crowd and just enjoyed the festivities for a while—those corn dogs might have been the best tasting corn dogs that I’ve had in decades. They were absolutely delicious. I don’t know if it was because I was really hungry or if they sprinkled them with gold, but they were delicious. Just a few days prior I had a hundred-dollar steak at a premier establishment—which was good. But the corn dogs at Annie Oakely far exceeded that otherwise fine dining. There just isn’t anything better than cowboy hats, bullwhips, six guns and the prance of horses in front of a corn field filled with product ready for the picking. This particular year did more than just inspire me to another year of American patriotism. It unlocked several new doors which dared me to go in—which I think I will do—gladly. I’ve never been so glad to just barely make something with all the opposition involved in a very busy life. But more than that, I’m glad Gery was able to pull it together to perform effortlessly in spite of the grim realities that book ended the event with an ominous cloud. For just a little bit the corn dogs tasted better and the sun sets were just a bit more spectacular, all because a bunch of us clawed our way to Annie Oakley’s birthplace once again to celebrate Americana in all its wonderful glory.